The EPA maps Connecticut's greenhouse gassers

A decade ago, Connecticut nicknamed its dirtiest power generating plants the “Sooty Six.”

Those got cleaned up and by 2010, according to a new federal greenhouse gas report, we were down to a less-than-Fragrant Five big emitters.

Now one of those is being dismantled, and state environmentalists say progress is being made but that the fight isn’t over yet.

Connecticut’s big power plants continued to pump out greenhouse gases to the tune of 6.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other emissions in 2010, according to a recent report issued by theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The interactive map and report on the EPA’s website represents the first time the feds have offered detailed greenhouse gas emission data for the entire nation.

Five Connecticut power plants accounted for nearly 69 percent of the 9.94 million tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions in this state for 2010, according to the report.

As bad as that might sound, says Charles Rothenberger, it’s an improvement over what Connecticut used to experience just a few years ago.

Rothenberger is a staff attorney with the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. He cites a recent state study that found power plant greenhouse emissions have declined by an estimated 1 million metric tons over the past four years.

“The economy is having an impact,” Rothenberger says, explaining the Great Recession has helped reduce energy demands. “And we’re also investing a lot more in energy efficiency” in both the commercial and residential sectors, he adds.

Connecticut has made strides in cleaning up pollution from its electrical generating plants since the late 1990s when environmental groups began a campaign to reform the state’s “Sooty Six.”

That was the tag given Connecticut’s dirtiest power facilities, which were eventually forced to clean up their act after state legislation passed in 2002.

“We’ve come a long way since those days, but we have a ways to go yet,” says Rothenberger.

According to the EPA’s greenhouse gas interactive map and charts, these are the five plants that put out the largest amounts of CO2 and other gas emissions in 2010:

-    Lake Road Generating Co., Dayville (a section of the eastern Connecticut town of Killingly), 1,458,283 million metric tons.
-    AES Thames, Uncasville (a section of Montville), 1,456,671 metric tons. This plant has been shut down and is now being dismantled by its owner.
-    Milford Power Co., Milford. 1,393,565 million metric tons.
-    Bridgeport Harbor, Bridgeport. 1,268,107 million metric tons.
-    Bridgeport Energy, Bridgeport. 1,259,986 million metric tons.

The 37 other greenhouse gas sources listed for Connecticut, ranging from the Naval Submarine Base in Groton to Yale University’s School of Medicine, combined for a total of a little over 3.1 million tons of CO2 and other climate-warming gases.

Nationwide, power plants accounted for 72.3 percent of reported emissions, according to the EPA.

Rothenberger says one improvement in Connecticut’s power plant situation has been “a fuel-switching trend” away from coal and oil-fired generation toward cleaner natural gas.
Connecticut’s increased reliance on natural gas is also part of a national push that has triggered major concerns about a lack of environmental controls over production of this allegedly cleaner fossil fuel.

“Fracking” is the term for the process of pumping huge amounts of water and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to force natural gas out. Studies are now showing that system can produce ground-water pollution, destroy aquifers and may even produce earthquakes.

“It’s easy for advocates of developing this resource to get tunnel vision,” admits Rothenberger. “Fracking has raised a host of issues.”

The ultimate goal, he says, is to replace all fossil fuels with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Rothenberger says Connecticut has made some steps in that direction but needs to dramatically increase those kinds of investments.

“It would be a mistake to relax,” Rothenberger says of the gains made in reducing this state’s greenhouse gas emissions, “ and assume mission accomplished.”

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